Video evidence (below) compiled by the Humane Society of the United States shows inhumane handling methods that may have endangered the health of children.
A shocking undercover investigation by the Humane Society of the United States reveals widespread mistreatment of "downed" dairy cows—those who are too sick or injured to walk—at a Southern California slaughter plant.
The investigation at the Hallmark Meat Packing Co. of Chino pulls open a curtain on the scandalous treatment of animals slaughtered to supply the National School Lunch Program and other federal aid programs.
Video evidence obtained by an HSUS investigator shows slaughter plant workers displaying complete disregard for the pain and misery they inflicted as they repeatedly attempted to force "downed" animals onto their feet and into the human food chain.
Cruelties that defy belief
In the video, workers are seen kicking cows, ramming them with the blades of a forklift, jabbing them in the eyes, applying painful electrical shocks and even torturing them with a hose and water in attempts to force sick or injured animals to walk to slaughter.
"This torture is right out of the waterboarding manual. To see the extreme cruelties shown in the HSUS video challenges comprehension," said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the HSUS.
"This must serve as a five-alarm call to action for Congress and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Our government simply must act quickly both to guarantee the most basic level of humane treatment for farm animals and to protect America's most vulnerable people, our children, needy families and the elderly from potentially dangerous food."
Beef distributed for school lunches and the needy
Hallmark's Chino, Calif. slaughter plant supplies the Westland Meat Co., which processes the carcasses. The facility is the second-largest supplier of beef to USDA's Commodity Procurement Branch, which distributes the beef to needy families, the elderly and also to schools through the National School Lunch Program. Westland was named a USDA "supplier of the year" for 2004-2005 and has delivered beef to schools in 36 states. More than 100,000 schools and child care facilities nationwide receive meat through the lunch program.
(Hallmark Meat Packing has no connection to Hallmark Cards, Inc.)
Temple Grandin, a renowned expert on animal agriculture and professor at Colorado State University, called the images captured in the investigation "one of the worst animal abuse videos I have ever viewed."
A demand for action
The HSUS recently completed its six-week undercover investigation at the federally-inspected slaughter plant. Videotape evidence and investigative background have been given to law enforcement authorities in San Bernardino County, Calif.
In releasing footage from the investigation, the HSUS demands that the USDA move swiftly to tighten its confusing regulations on the slaughter of downed cattle. Downer cows must not be used for food—plain and simple. As the HSUS video shows, this is necessary to protect animals from suffering. As science has made clear, this is necessary to protect food safety. The practice of slaughtering downed cows is especially troubling now that the link between downed cattle and bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), also known as mad cow disease, has been firmly established. Of the 15 known cases of BSE-infected animals discovered in North America, at least 12 involved downed animals.
At the same time, the HSUS is urging Congress to intervene. The Farm Animal Stewardship Purchasing Act (H.R. 1726) would set modest animal welfare standards, including humane euthanasia of any downed animals, for producers who sell food to federal government programs, and the Downed Animal Protection Act (S. 394 and H.R. 661) would ban any slaughtering of downed animals for human consumption.
What you can do
Ask the USDA to put an immediate stop to downers in the food supply.